by Rick Conrad
For the Pharos-Tribune
The Winamac Warriors had visions of winning their first sectional title in several years and things seemed to be looking up for them.
As a unit they had come together at the right point of the season and they had been on a tear shooting the ball.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, that all came to an abrupt halt Saturday night at the hands of Boone Grove as the Warriors fell, 64-49.
Things looked good for the Warriors (10-13) early in the game by playing the way they’ve been playing lately. Both teams went after each other in the first quarter and each one matched what the other was doing. Midway through the quarter Wolves standout Jon Hogg left the game with an apparent ankle injury. With time winding down Winamac was up 15-12 thanks to a good start by Zach Shidler. A straightaway 25-footer from Dean Hill at the buzzer tied things at 15-15 after one.
With Hogg out of the line-up, Boone Grove (14-8) started going to big Jake Clapp and the senior delivered repeatedly for the Wolves. With turnovers coming into the picture and the work that Clapp was doing inside, the Warriors were unable to get anything going offensively. On top of that Hogg reentered the game and quickly went to work himself scoring seven points in less than three minutes of action. A Winamac scoring drought of nearly five minutes and an 8-0 Boone Grove run resulted in a Boone Grove lead of 29-21 at the break.
When played resumed in the second half both squads attempted to pick up the pace which resulted in a little more physical play than what the fans had seen in the first half. Many were upset with the officials not calling the rough play as one foul was called against each team in the third quarter. Winamac was still getting results on the offensive end of the floor but didn’t have an answer for the back cutting and sliding to the basket that the Wolves were doing. Often the result was open layups against the Warriors. Despite giving up the easy baskets Winamac was still in the game after three, although trailing 40-31.
Things fell apart for Winamac in the final quarter as the Wolves continued to cut up the Warrior defense. A short 6-0 run by the 6:01 mark had given Boone Grove a 46-31 lead.
But then Winamac started showing signs of life on offense. With the Winamac shooters starting to get dialed in, J.T. Garnett, Adam Gruening and Parker Fox each nailed one from long range on three straight possessions but the defense couldn’t get a stop against the cutting that Boone Grove was doing. Late in the game Winamac was forced to foul and the Wolves answered by hitting most of their free throws down the stretch to claim the title.
“It’s been a rough season for us, but we came together as a team just in time for sectionals,” Fox said. “The coaches told us they were going to be cutting back door and we just weren’t there to cover it. I’m just glad we played together as a team, even tonight. I feel bad for our seniors and they’re going to be missed next year.”
Hogg led Boone Grove with a game-high 21 points. Hill added 15 while Daniel Molouhos dropped in 13. Clapp added 11 of his own.
Fox led the Warriors with 14 points while Shidler finished the game with 12 and Garnett chipped in nine in the loss.
“We didn’t do a very good job of defending that high open post offense they ran,” Winamac coach Kyle Johnson said. “I had a way I wanted to guard it but I didn’t get my guys in position to defend it. I’m just proud of the way they finished and went deep into the sectional, that’s pretty impressive.
“My two seniors are legends as far as I’m concerned in Warrior basketball. Zach Shidler had started for four years and has led with his voice, his body and his actions. I’m going to miss him greatly. Evan Rose is a different story. He went through the freshman level then the JV level and even played JV last year as a junior. He earned his position as a captain and as a starter this year. Evan is a story I’ve got for these kids that don’t play basketball a lot when they’re younger. Those two guys are legends in my book.”